25 Years Later, Banners Re-Hung to Remember Exxon Valdez

Aaron Selbig
This banner was raised along the bow of the vessel Puk Uk.
Aaron Selbig photo

     Twenty-five years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, many Alaskans who lived through it are still trying to ensure the spill is not forgotten. Last week at the Homer harbor, a few of them staged a silent reminder. 

     On a bright, sunny spring day at the Homer harbor two weeks ago, six vessels were displaying enormous banners, tied up to their rigging and stretched wide over their bows. The banners had a theme. One of them depicts a bald eagle with a fish in its talons. It reads in large letters, “Homer: Still Fighting for the Peninsula.” 

      Another, stretched over the bow of the Danny J ferry, has a map of Prince William Sound with the message, “Still Fighting for Alaska.”

     The banners were created 25 years ago, in the summer of 1989, by Homer artist Mavis Muller, who’s probably best known for her Burning Basket project that lights up the beach at Mariner Park at the end of every summer.

     Muller created the banners after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, after the big news agencies in the Lower 48 had begun to lose interest in the spill and turn their TV cameras elsewhere.

     "Sometimes, here in Alaska, we can begin to feel cut off from the rest of the Lower 48 states," she said. "I started getting the sense that people were feeling that our voice was not getting out."

     Eight banners in all were created, fashioned from sheets of black TYPAR, a house-wrapping material that was used by some folks around Homer as makeshift boom during the spill response. Once the banners were done, they were sent off to eight communities affected by the spill, including Valdez, Cordova, Homer and Seldovia. 

     Of the original eight banners, one was confiscated in Valdez shortly after going up and another was lost. The remaining six lay rolled up at Muller’s cabin for 25 years.

     "I was compelled to bring them out, unfurl them, look at them again 25 years later and see what happens, as far as this thread of reflecting on the past, recognizing the present and shaping the future," said Muller.